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Afternoon Brewsky: Sunday Night Scrimmage, Longhorn Pool Party, More John Harris

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Horns_bullet_mediumSecond scrimmage going down Sunday night. After scrimmaging for the first time this fall last Monday, the Longhorns will once again take to the field for one of the defining evenings of fall practice. Here are a few of the storylines:

  • The quarterbacks. Duh. The easy question -- can sophomore David Ash start to gain some separation from junior Case McCoy? The hard question -- if there is separation, will Mack Brown actually admit it in his next media availability. The coaches are looking for a guy who can protect the football, so continuing to avoid turnovers is a huge key after the only interception in the roughly 100 yards of the first scrimmage came on a tipped pass.
  • Which freshmen will emerge to earn a spot in the rotation? After several strong recruiting classes, there aren't many players who will be asked to contribute in major roles this season. There are a handful, though. Can defensive tackle Malcom Brown continue to surge to break into a crowded rotation? Can running back/wide receiver Daje Johnson continue to earn buzz in his versatile role? What about Dalton Santos vying to be the back-up middle linebacker?
  • Can the receivers and tight ends step up and catch the ball after about five drops in the first practice? There's not a lot of positive stuff being said right now about redshirt freshman tight end MJ McFarland stepping up and solidifying the position. Will he make a leap before the start of the season or is he really a year away from putting it all together?
  • After the starting group of defensive backs, who can separate back there to earn the back-up spots. Sophomores Josh Turner and Leroy Scott both just made position changes -- Turner to safety, Scott to cornerback -- that will have an impact on where they fit into the rotation.
  • Are the starting offensive tackles encased in bubble wrap? If not, they should be.

Horns_bullet_mediumPool party! The Longhorns had a chance to relax a little bit the other day when the coaches allowed them some time in the pool to kick back and have some fun. However, Mack Brown didn't make it easy on his team while delivering the message. Check out the reaction of Jaxon Shipley in the front (having trouble embedding).

It doesn't appear that any of the offensive linmen wanted to compete for the title of Fat Guy Diving Board National Champion, which clearly belongs to Kentucky's Steven Duff, who has mastered the art. And likely broken some diving boards at some point.

Training Camp 2012 - Pool Day (via KentuckyVids)

The Texas pool party also featured this great picture of a handful of Texas linebackers. And position coach/defensive coordinator Manny Diaz chilling in the middle:

Muschamp, who?

Horns_bullet_mediumBrown impressed with young kickers. In an Saturday morning interview with ESPN Radio, Brown sung the praises of his two freshman kickers:

Nick Jordan has done an excellent job for us even though he hasn't done it in front of 101 thousand like he'll have to in a few weeks and then you go to the kickoff and we have a guy name Nick Rose, who is a freshman and he's got the best kickoff leg I've ever seen. He's been kicking it through the goal post and out of the end zone - so that gives us a chance in each of those positions to be good.

The extra five yards make a big difference kickoffs now after the rule change, no doubt, but it sounds like Texas has at least solidified the kickoff specialist position, which hasn't featured a big-time leg capable of consistent touchbacks in years, a fact that in turn hurt the coverage unit overall.

Brown also had an interesting comment about injured kicker Anthony Fera. The official word has been a groin strain that he came into camp with and aggravated again, but Brown called it a sore hip flexor on Saturday. Not really a huge difference, but noteworthy nonetheless.

Horns_bullet_mediumEspinosa stronger, more experienced. The strength of sophomore center Dominic Espinosa has been a major topic of conversation ever since the Holiday Bowl. Scipio Tex is rather tired of how overblown it has all been. The good news is that after missing the spring of 2011 with a shoulder injury, the Cedar Park product has now increased his bench press 100 pounds in the last yea, according to Orangebloods.

It's a good feature, and thankfully not behind the paywall, so those without subscriptions can still read it. The major source of information for the feature is former Longhorn center Jason Glynn, who worked with Espinosa his last two years of high school.

Simple common sense dictates that Espinosa should see the benefits of his increased strength this season, but Glynn had some thoughts on the subject worth passing along:

That strength will help him. But the best things about him are his feet and his intelligence. He understands the game, and he'll put himself in a good position before something bad happens. While strength is very important, I don't know that it's going to make him that much better as a player.

Feet and intelligence. The latter certainly a good trait for a center, someone who has to make the line calls and get the protections right. The former is something that I saw out of Espinosa in high school in a game against Stony Point. The Tigers were leaving Espinosa uncovered, I guess because they didn't have a nose tackle they wanted to put head-up on him, but the end result was that Espinosa was destroying the middle linebacker in space. I'm struggling to recall that specific player, but suffice it to say that he got eaten up. Feet, verified.

For his part, Glynn predicts a much better season for Espinosa, citing in particular how much the game should slow down for him with a season now under his belt.

Horns_bullet_mediumMore John Harris. Perhaps since sophomore wide receiver Jaxon Shipley is such a known quantity and the Mike Davis situation has been analyzed at good length, all the talk with the veteran receivers has been about sophomore John Harris, who has a sterling reputation as a blocker and as a big-time potential possession receiver, despite the fact that he's only appeared in several games during his career.

Harris was asked to assess his own skills on Friday:

I'm physical. I'm a big guy. I'm not [sophomore WR Jaxon] "Ship" [Shipley] and I'm not [junior WR] Mike [Davis]. I'm not really just a speed guy. But my size - I've got big hands and long arms. I use my big body to block and get in people's way. Take those big hits that maybe they can't take.

What Harris is describing is a type of player the Longhorns simply didn't have last season when he went down -- the type of guy who can be a security blanket in the short passing game. Third and 5, need to hit someone on a slant? That guy could be John Harris this year.

Shipley was also asked about his teammate:

John's one of those guys that obviously is a big-bodied guy. He's really physical. He goes up and gets the ball. I think that's his main strength - going up over people and catching balls.

Interesting stuff from lil Ship. As mentioned above, blocking and generally using his body as an advantage are the skills typically associated with Harris. Ball skills? Not as much, but it's no doubt a positive that Harris could flash an attribute not previously ascribed to his repertoire.